Bitter sweet times NSW Sugar Co-op

The Broadwater Sugar Mill.
The Broadwater Sugar Mill.

IT HAS been a bitter sweet year for the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative.

At the same time its co-generation plants – a joint venture with the State Government – went into receivership, the co-operative announced a record profit of $16.8 million at its annual meeting, held late last month.

Chief executive Chris Connors said the solid net profit came as a result of structural changes within the co-operative and high sugar prices.

“The co-operative and the refinery are both performing well.

"Our business plans are continuing to give us the required outcomes,” Mr Connors said.

The co-operative also has plans to sell-off assets, which would help it become debt free within 18 months, he said, after posting losses for the previous three years.

The troubled co-generation plants at Broadwater and Condong were placed into receivership last week.

The financial viability of the plants was based on the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates, which it qualified for because it would use sugar cane trash as fuel for energy production.

However, when the government introduced its solar credits scheme, the market became flooded with certificates and their value nose-dived to below $30.

In a statement, Mr Connors lashed out at the State Government over what he described as the “solar rebate debacle”.

“If the governments at both federal and state level want a renewable energy program then there is going to have to be changes,” Mr Connors said.

The co-op, which had already written off its investment share in the $22 million project, would now also write down assets worth about $30- million.

The co-op is also working on getting recovery assistance for the region’s cane growers, for whom the 2010 season was the worst in living memory.

Inundation caused by excessive rainfall saw new plantings across the region wiped out.

These loses are expected to have an impact on the industry next year when the cane would have been harvested and processed.

NSW cane growers have only been eligible for government recovery grants of $15,000.

Mr Connors said although it was anticipated the co-op would not crush to capacity in 2012, it would continue to operate in the black.

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